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Fabulous weekend of fun for Stirling Castle's renaissance palace opening

23 May 2011

Sixty costumed performers and a chance to meet two queens.

Sixty costumed performers will be among the attractions at the grand opening weekend for the Renaissance royal palace at Stirling Castle takes place on 4 & 5 June.

The event, entitled Stirling Castle Presents – A Palace Fit For A Queen, promises to be among the most colourful and entertaining of the summer.

It’s a fantastic chance to join in the celebrations marking the completion of Historic Scotland’s £12 million project to return the palace block within the castle walls to how it might have looked in the 1540s.

At this time it was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots and her mother, the dowager queen Mary of Guise.

Costumed performers will take on the roles of both queens, and there will be a host of great fun activities to enjoy.

Gillian Macdonald, Stirling castle executive manager, said: “This will be a really colourful and fun weekend where visitors can enjoy everything from a chance to meet our queens, to dancing, games, swordfights, music and loads more.

“But the real star of the show is the palace itself and the chance to step back in time with a tour of the six fabulously refurbished royal apartments which we have returned to how they might have looked when Mary Queen of Scots lived there as a little girl.”

There are also brand new exhibitions and interactive displays plus three modernised shops and a café selling cakes and other goodies made in the castle’s own bakery.

  • Tickets for the event are available from and must be bought in advance – this is because space is limited and we want to ensure that all visitors have the best possible experience.

  • A range of free to use pictures are available of performers and of the refurbished palace interiors. Contact Matthew Shelley or Ellen Drummond-Ferroni.

The event
  • It’s 1546 and Mary of Guise, and her young daughter Mary Queen of Scots, are being welcomed home to their palace inside Stirling Castle. A cannon fires a salute as the royal party arrives in a small procession up the esplanade at 11.45am on Saturday, 4 June. They will hand out alms to the paupers gathered to see them before being welcomed by Lord Erskine, keeper of the castle.

  • Feast your eyes: Enjoy superb cookery demonstrations as a team of cooks prepare a feast fit for royalty. Kevin Sands of Ringford, near Kirkcudbright, will be in charge of the kitchens in the North gate. As well as venison, trout, beef and (a few) vegetables they will be preparing lots of sweet dishes including marzipan treats. But the main attractions are likely to be a decorated boar’s head, complete with apple in mouth, and a splendid model of the warship The Great Michael hand made from sugar and firing miniature cannon balls.

  • Meet the mighty: Mary of Guise, widow of James V, along with little Mary Queen of Scots, will meet their subjects. Actress and singer, Angela Branney from Carnoustie in Angus, will play the French dowager queen. Angela is accustomed to royal roles, having appeared as Queen Margaret Tudor, at Historic Scotland’s Party at the Palace in Linlithgow. The ‘Little Queen’ will be played by 4-year-old Catriona Glennie from Law, in South Lanarkshire, with her mum Jo as her nurse.

  • Gunpowder and rapiers: Four cannoneers dressed in blue and white French livery, and a gun captain, will fire salutes from a 2lb cannon set up on the gatehouse. A Members of Kilmarnock-based Fire and Sword will set up a Renaissance military encampment where visitors can find out how the bow and arrow is gradually being replaced by the gun and see why gentlemen are starting to choose the rapier in favour of the broadsword.

  • Plots and politics: Dramatic events are shaking Scotland – French ambassador Henri Cleutin will be present to tell Mary of Guise that his country is sending warships to help end the siege at St Andrews Castle, which is held by a Protestant garrison, including a young man called John Knox. They will also discuss plans for Mary Queen of Scots to wed the Dauphin Francois, future king of France. Henri will be played by Hugh Robertson, who runs Kilmarnock-based Fire and Sword. There will be arguments, conflicts and fights as political tempers boil over. The Regent Arran will be played by Lars Cook from Perth, who appeared at Historic Scotland’s Party at the Palace as James IV. Alistair Strachan, from Chryston, North Lanarkshire, will be Lord Erskine, keeper of the castle. Denis Reid takes on the role of Sir Adam Otterburn, Scotland’s ambassador to England – and a fine swordsman. Alistair and Denis are accomplished performers who appear at events across Scotland.

  • Looks could kill: A 16th-century make-up demonstration will reveal the beauty secrets of the loveliest Renaissance women. It will also explain the risks they ran, as cosmetics contained poisonous substances including lead. Visitors can also see how a lady was dressed by her servants each morning, with layers of clothes beginning with a shift and tight corset. They can also find out about the role of the midwife in 16th-century Scotland and about ideas on bringing up children.

  • What a giggle: Peterkin the Fool, aka Peet Cooper from Bristol, will be entertaining the crowd with jokes, juggling and acrobatics. Peet is a fantastic performer and has been Resident Fool at Hampton Court Palace since 1992, and in 2005 was declared English Heritage National Jester.

  • Sounds of the 40s – that’s the 1540s: Fife-based early music expert and composer Jim Tribble will be present with a selection of popular instruments of the era. You can hear the hurdy gurdy and a harp-type instrument called a psaltery. Then there’s the rackett, a small wind instrument which makes a big noise, a little like a swarm of bees. Out on the esplanade the Edinburgh-based specialist period music group, Gaïta, will be performing top sounds of the era.

  • Strutting their stuff: The splendid Danse Ecosse, led by Susan Warren from Inverness, will be putting on displays of Renaissance dance of the types that courtiers and nobles would have enjoyed at a major royal party.

A media pack about the palace project is available at  

Notes for editors:

For further information

Matthew Shelley
07786 704 299 or 01786 431 325